Government researchers in Australia have started animal tests of two potential COVID-19 vaccines. However, experts caution that even if they prove successful, manufacturers will be unlikely to mass-produce a vaccine until next year.
The vaccines have been made by Oxford University in Britain and in the United States by Inovio Pharmaceuticals.
The World Health Organization has said they can be tested on animals, which is a fundamental step in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine for humans.
Australia's national science agency is assessing whether the treatments work, and whether they are safe for people.
The potential vaccines are being tested on ferrets, which contract the coronavirus in the same way people do.
Jane Halton, the head of Australia's Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, says the experiments are a breakthrough.
“They are very significant,” she said. “I mean, this is world-leading technology and this is the first time actually in the world that we have done these animal model tests to look at two candidate vaccines, both of which the CEPI coalition has provided funding towards.”
There is a global push to find an effective treatment for the new coronavirus that continues to cut a deadly swath though many countries.
International collaboration is high, and the research continues at a rapid pace. At least 20 vaccines are being developed around the world.
Australian researchers have said it would usually take them up to two years to reach the point of animal testing. This time it has taken them just two months.
However, experts believe that despite the progress, a vaccine will probably not be available until later in 2021 because of the time it will take for new treatments to meet international standards.